Mad Teddy's website - ZPE researches: history, terminology and motivation

Mad Teddy's web-pages

Mad Teddy's researches
into zero-point energy

History, terminology and motivation

This page added on Friday, 10th July 2009

>>>    Nikola Tesla's 153rd birthday    <<<

As I've mentioned elsewhere in this site, I've been interested in the physical sciences since I was a kid. My burgeoning interest in electricity in the early years of high-school was fuelled by my Dad; we worked together on some early projects, and he helped me to get my young head around some of the tricky concepts.

Those were the years when electronics was starting to become an affordable and easily-accessible hobby. The age of the transistor had well and truly arrived, and components were becoming small and cheap. Intriguing, high-quality electronics magazines began to proliferate. By the 1970's, electronics as a serious hobby was well-established; and I was an enthusiastic participant.

By the early 1980's, it had plateaued somewhat, because pretty much all the clever things you could do had already been done: circuits for things like vocoders, ring modulators, and just about every imaginable guitar special-effect had been published, along with colour organs, light chasers, and various other more-or-less useful things - even the occasional Tesla coil circuit (for example, this one, which appeared in the Popular Electronics publication "1990 ELECTRONIC HOBBYISTS Handbook", a copy of which I own). The magazines began to repeat themselves: circuits for new projects began to look suspiciously like things that had been published many times before. Clearly, it was getting harder to be truly original.

(WARNING: please don't build and operate that Tesla coil project unless you know exactly what you're about. In that circuit, the primary and secondary coils share a common "earth" - which means that you could get a very nasty shock from it if you're not extremely careful! Note the disclaimer at the end of the article; I apply a similar disclaimer to any high-voltage device I describe, or allude to in any way, within this website - including the one just mentioned. Basically: "Don't blame me if you get into strife - you have been warned!")

Around that time, small, affordable computers began to appear. Computing as a hobby began to take over from electronics, and as electronics magazines began to dwindle, computer mags began to fill the vacuum. At first, I resented the change; but eventually I embraced it, and by the mid-80's I'd bought my Commodore 64 and was happily putting it to work producing Mandelbrot Set graphics, experimenting with its built-in three-voice synthesizer, and even learning the rudiments of machine code. Lots of fun!

Then, by the early 1990's, even that began to pall, and eventually "fizzled out" - much as the exciting world of electronics experimentation had done a decade or so earlier. Just as video killed the radio star, Windows killed the programming star! No longer did you write programs to fill your needs - you bought application software, and hoped it would do basically what you wanted it to without interfering with any other previously-installed software, or fouling up your machine in any other conceivable way...   

And then - the internet arrived.

In early 1998, I bought my first internet-capable computer - the Windows 95 machine on which I eventually began to compose this website.

It was probably a couple of years later that I began to think back to my boyhood, and reminisce over the simple, old-fashioned projects that my Dad and I used to build. I remembered books that I'd found in the school library, with instructions for making things like Wimshurst machines and Tesla coils. At some point, on a whim (pun not intended!), I started digging around on the web to see if anybody else was thinking along similar lines.

Hoo boy - did I get a surprise! I found that there was absolutely tons of stuff out there. In particular, there were dozens - perhaps hundreds - of websites dedicated to Tesla coils, and vast amounts of information about their strange, passionate inventor, Nikola Tesla himself.

I was immediately fascinated. I read voraciously whatever I could find about the physics of that bygone era, and the characters who made it all happen - Faraday, Henry, Maxwell, and of course dear old Tesla himself, among others. I determined that I would get involved with all this lovely stuff again, and perhaps eventually make my own contribution to the lore via the internet - which, of course, I have now done, and am joyously continuing to do!

>>>   FULL CIRCLE   <<<

Along the way, while hunting for information about "old-fashioned" electrical phenomena, I also found quite a lot of other intriguing stuff, which - on the face of it - appeared to be related in some way to my main quest. In particular, the name of Tesla kept appearing in unexpected ways.

I've made earlier references within this website to a strange book from around 1980 called "The Cosmic Cospiracy", by Stan Deyo (you might like to click here to read a bit about it and see a scan of its front cover - just scroll down a bit from the top of the page).

It is, by any standards, an odd book. It's divided into four sections: "Flights of Reason", "Mysticism and Numerology", "Not of Earth", and "The Seven Appendices".

It's not my purpose here to address the mystical and/or religious aspects of the book. The section that is of perhaps more immediate interest is the first section, "Flights of Reason". In this, Deyo goes into considerable detail about something he calls "Electro-Dynamic Propulsion". He has more to say about it in the first six of the seven appendices.

Ho ho ==>  
(Click it to see the original)  

If you're keen enough, you can click here to read some extracts from these parts of Deyo's book! (Especially, have a good look at Appendix 6.) Go on - I dare you! Live dangerously...

Now, I'm not getting into any kind of debate about the details of Deyo's thoughts in this area. (It did fascinate me when I was in my late twenties, and I still think it's probably worth looking into more deeply at some stage.) The main point I want to make here is that there are references to Nikola Tesla in the text.

When I first started hunting on the web for information about Tesla, I found several sites which link Tesla to various people's thoughts about electric flying vehicles. For example, have a look at this page - which contains the following very telling paragraph - a quote from Tesla about the way science was headed even in his day:

Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a mathematical structure which has no relation to reality.

Then, try typing

"flying saucer" Tesla

into Google, and see what turns up!

Perhaps the most interesting web-page about electric flying machines is that by Jean-Louis Naudin, a French experimenter who claims to have made working models. He also encourages visitors to his site to make their own working models and report their results to him for inclusion in his site. There are lots of eye-catching photos and videos on that site.

Have I piqued your interest? Click here to visit Jean-Louis's "lifter" page, and see for yourself! Also, click here to visit his home page, and see what else he's into - a very interesting character, I think you'll agree. (I'll probably be having more to say about Monsieur Naudin and his work fairly soon.)

I don't have a working lifter - yet. I do have a partially-constructed high-voltage DC generator, built around the flyback transformer from a defunct computer monitor, which may well power such a thing - and, of course, I'd like to think that I might become the first person from Tasmania to get a mention on Naudin's site for having built a successful lifter. But that project is on hold for the moment, because I've decided to concentrate on the obviously far more pressing problem of clean, cheap, sustainable, practical energy for everyday needs - especially now that climate change is becoming such a desperately important issue.

As I continued to trawl the net for information about these most interesting matters, I began to find web-pages which referred to "free energy". This caused me to have raised eyebrows, because my scientific education had - quite rightly - led me to be wary of such things as perpetual motion machines, and violations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Law of Conservation of Energy. I was well aware of the TANSTAAFL principle ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch").

I could have adopted the true sceptic's approach, dismissing such web-pages simply as "rubbish" or "nonsense" and immediately flicking away from them; but I thought that it couldn't do any harm to at least check these things out. Many of those pages' authors seemed to be at least sincere, even if they were perhaps misguided.

Other terms were used in some of these pages. Many of them referred to the work of Nikola Tesla, and mentioned the fact that Tesla had used the term "radiant energy". Then again, the expression "zero-point energy" occurred frequently.

I began to realize that these authors were not talking about the creation of energy (which would be a direct violation of the Conservation Law). Nor were they suggesting that the law of entropy (i.e. the Second Law of Thermodynamics) can be violated. Rather, the clear message was that there is a vast reservoir of energy throughout the universe, just "below the surface", as it were - and that we would do well to be directing our efforts toward finding efficient ways to access it, especially in these disturbing times when it seems that our world may be on the brink of environmental disaster, largely as a result of humanity's rapidly increasing use of polluting, unsustainable energy sources.

It became clear to me that "zero-point energy" and Tesla's "radiant energy" were one and the same thing. Further, I learned that the existence of zero-point energy is accepted - rather grudgingly, it seems - by "mainstream" or "establishment" science. Often referred to as ZPE, it's the energy which cannot be extracted from a system by cooling, even down to absolute zero (about -273 degrees Celsius) - hence the name. (The official line is that ZPE is a phenomenon of quantum mechanics - a subject which I'd like to address at some stage. The reason that scientists have somewhat of a problem with it is that it provides an opportunity for enthusiasts of what they view as "fringe" or "crackpot" science to push their barrow, fly their kite, stir their pot, or beat their drum - whichever metaphor you like least. )

Eventually, when I began to create this website about four years ago, I was determined to include what I'd learned about ZPE within the site. Because of the obvious Tesla connection, I spared no effort to get my site (complete with a page about ZPE) ready for launch by the 150th anniversary of Tesla's birth, 10th July 2006 - and, with a struggle, I succeeded, with five days to spare.

Before proceeding - some comments about the term "free energy".

It's not a term I particularly like. I'm not comfortable with it, for a number of reasons:

Firstly, to my way of thinking it sounds too "trendy" and "hip". I can understand "mainstream" science having a severe problem with it; it sounds exactly like the sort of thing sceptics would just love to get their pointy teeth into - so why encourage them, especially if there is an alternative term which the scientific world will accept, if only with bad grace?

Secondly, what could the term really mean? Again to my way of thinking, there is one sense in which all energy is free, and there is another sense in which no energy is free.

Allow me to elaborate:

Accepting that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, we can say that such energy as there is in the universe has always been here, and is here to stay. It may change from one form to another, and at different times and places it may be easier to "get at" than at others - but if it's accessible at all, it's there for the taking. It's "free", in the sense that it is simply there for the taking - we don't have to "manufacture" it!


Fossil fuels such as coal and oil are simply "there", and have been for a long time. All we have to do is dig them up (or pump them up, if they're in liquid form), and we have a source of energy (as chemical energy, in these cases).

Nuclear or "atomic" energy is also simply "there", in the sense that the nuclei of certain isotopes of certain elements are fissile - i.e. they can break apart into fragments, including the lighter nuclei of other elements and other, smaller particles which can trigger other fissile nuclei to split in the same way. The classic example is uranium-235, one atom of which can split into an atom of barium, an atom of krypton, and three neutrons, with the release of a considerable amount of heat. Those neutrons can trigger other U-235 atoms to behave similarly, and you have a "chain reaction".

Solar energy - the energy of the sun - is not really anything new. The sun's heat causes evaporation from oceans, rivers and lakes; then some of that vapour condenses into rain which lands at a higher level and can be used to run hydro-electric power stations, for example. All we have to do is allow it to run down the hill in a controlled manner. (In the final analysis, solar energy can be viewed as a form of nuclear energy - fusion, this time, rather than fission.)

Another aspect of solar energy: if you're the sort of person who is silly enough to go outside and sunbake under an ozone-depleted sky, you'll get your tan for nothing!

But of course, it's not really that simple, is it? The very process of mining the coal, or pumping (and refining) the oil, is not free. Expensive equipment is needed; royalties have to be paid for any intellectual property involved; people have to be paid to do the work; and of course - as is now painfully clear - there is a serious environmental cost associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Similarly, building and running a power station - even a hydro-electric one - is quite expensive; and again, there is always at least some impact on the environment. Nuclear fission power, although in use in some parts of the world, remains a controversial issue, with continuing debate about safety and waste storage.

Solar energy - the direct use of the sun's radiation - looks like something worth pursuing. New technologies look quite promising, and could at least give us a breathing-space while even better methods are developed - but again, it certainly won't be free (and, of course, it's weather-dependent, so that it won't be practical in some parts of the world).

As for lying in the sun, there is a significant risk of skin cancer - and if that's not a cost, I don't know what is!

Okay - so what about radiant energy, or ZPE? Is it really free?

Not really, the way I see it. It's going to require the production of appropriate technologies, which will probably be expensive initially, at least - although, as we see repeatedly, the cost of any new technology drops as it becomes accepted and widespread.

I'm hoping that it will become quite cheap over time. Of course, there will be an on-going need for servicing and maintenance of the required equipment; but as this process becomes streamlined over time, hopefully it won't be a major expense.

The best part, as I see it, is that it will (hopefully!) have very little impact on the environment - certainly less so than almost all of the currently-existing technologies I've mentioned. If it can provide everyone in the world with all the energy we'll ever need, cleanly, safely and at low cost, while affording our poor, battered old world a real chance to regain its equilibrium, what could be better?

I think that TANSTAAFL will always rule. I'm just hoping that the "Lunch" will end up being cheap, if not "Free".

As you'll see, some of the researchers I admire - and on the basis of whose work I'm conducting my own researches - do use the term "free energy" without restriction or apology. I'm not in any way launching a personal attack on them - far from it. It's just that I think the issue is worthy of mention; and that I'll probably have to simply put up with being discomfited by their use of the term - because the positive value of what they are doing is far too important to allow semantics to become a major issue. As always, it's ideas that are important, rather than mere words.

By way of closing this page, I'd like to tell you a story.

In 2007, ABC television ran a programme on a weekly basis (for most of the year) entitled "Difference of Opinion" in which journalist Jeff McMullen compèred a discussion involving four or five panellists and a studio audience. The topic for each programme was an issue of the day. The twelfth programme, screened on Tuesday 30th April, was entitled "Cool Heads In A Warm World", and dealt with climate change, which was finally becoming a serious topic for discussion - even, astonishingly, by the Howard Federal Government.

The shows were advertised on television a few weeks ahead, and viewers were invited to register as members of the studio audience. As soon as I knew the "Cool Heads..." show was coming up, I decided to do precisely that, and had no trouble being accepted. At the time, I made a point of asking if I would be able to make a contribution, and even refer to my website, live on national television. (I also gave a bit of information about what I had in mind - which, I now realize, was almost certainly a mistake.) I gained the impression that I'd have just as good a chance to get a word in as anybody else.

It was my intention, if at all possible, to "have my say" in the programme. At various points, Mr. McMullen would ask for questions from the audience. What I had in mind was not really a "question"; but I thought that if I was quick enough I might have a chance to say something, within a few seconds, about a possible technical solution, and thus perhaps make a worthwhile contribution to the on-going debate.

The programmes were produced in Sydney. They were filmed early in the evening and played to air later that same night. So with a bit of luck one could attend the filming and be home in time to see oneself on the telly.

I flew up on Monday 29th and stayed with an old university friend who lived and worked in the "big smoke". I spent some time, both before leaving Launceston and during the time I had in Sydney before the show, trying to prepare my little "speech" which I would deliver if the opportunity arose. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something along these lines:

“There is a way to generate sufficient energy for the developing world which will not lead to either the emission of greenhouse gases or the risk of nuclear accidents.”

Just that, basically. No mention of ZPE - unless I was asked to elaborate, when I would try to give a basic idea of what it was about and refer viewers to my website for further details.

I made a point of wearing my T-shirt under my jumper when I went to the filming, with the intention of "flashing" the T-shirt at the appropriate juncture, should it arise.

The filming commenced, and I bided my time until what seemed like the right moment. I put my hand up in the hope of being asked to speak - but to no avail. In fact, I tried many times, even waving my arm around in the hope of improving my chances - but still, no luck.

As the filming went on, I began to despair of having my say. Eventually, I just took off the jumper, hoping I might at least send a glimpse of my website's URL around the nation.

Later, back at my friend's home, we watched the show when it was broadcast. The discussion centred more on environmental concerns and economic issues like carbon trading and carbon taxes, than on possible technical "fixes". There were a few short glimpses, as the camera panned over the studio audience, of a rather sombre-faced Mad Teddy, but that was all - no T-shirt visible, let alone a solitary messenger of hope delivering a sanguine word in due season!

Was I naïve to "telegraph my punches" before the show? Had the compère been warned about a wall-eyed weirdo with a wacky website and way-out ideas who might disturb the even tenor of the proceedings?

I don't know. But I have my suspicions.

Still - all was not lost. With the stress of the TV show out of the way, I spent a very pleasant couple of days with my old mate, having a fresh look at Sydney (which, though a metropolis, does have real charm), and buying a few books from some of the city's excellent bookshops. I reckon I came out ahead, in the end!

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But the story doesn't end there. Nearly three months later, on Thursday 19th July, another episode of "Difference of Opinion", entitled "Nuclear or Not", went to air. This was in the wake of the Howard government's championing of a nuclear future for Australia; click here to see a précis of the programme's subject matter.

This time, I didn't register for the studio audience. (Once bitten...) However, I did get involved in a way which produced a far more satisfactory result, from the comfort of my own home.

With many ABC-TV programmes, once a show has gone to air, there is an opportunity for the public to take part in an internet forum. This was true for "Difference of Opinion". So I made a point of taking part in that, posting a few comments and getting involved in a bit of a debate with other interested viewers.

I'm delighted to report that - at the time of writing - those comments are still there! If you click here, you'll see a list of contributers - and you'll find "Mad Teddy", who started a thread headed "There is a better way". If you click on that, you can read the little debate that ensued. (Alternatively, you can go straight to that discussion page by clicking here, if you'd rather.)


“Where there's a will, there's a way”

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